A Few Minor League Games

Been going to more minor league games over the past month. A good way to stay relaxed especially while I’m still more comfortable only doing outside activities.

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I got up to Somerset on the first day of summer and was treated to kind of an amazing weather show—typical New Jersey where the weather can’t choose and instead ends up with a little of everything. This culminated in a spectacular 8:30 sunset and rainbow combination.

The game against Hartford was pretty good too. Both teams were fighting for the firs half championship and the result was as tight as expected. Luis Medina started for the Patriots and it’s clear why he’s a top prospect since he’s no just capable of throwing 100mph gas but has some nasty offspeed stuff that he can rely on too. Unfortunately he could only make it through the Hartford lineup twice and the bullpen wasn’t as sharp.

Somerset did have its chances but couldn’t get that clutch hit and fell to a 3–2 loss. And as good as Medina was my main memory of the game was that it turned into an Ump show with an inconsistent strike zone (which contributed to Medina hitting 90 pitches in the 5th inning) as well as inserting themselves into ever single call they could.

Though I also need to mention that one of the Hartford players is actually from Somerset and his grandmother threw out the first pitch to him so that was pretty cool.

Yes I did get autographs. The Somerset environment isn’t great for getting signatures but I did bring a couple cards of their coach since those are pretty easy to get. While I’m happy to have added Chris Denorfia to the collection (especially on my first signed 2008 Upper Deck) I totally missed that Blaine Beatty was the pitching coach and as a guy who pitched in the early 1990s I have plenty of his cards lying around.

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I caught another great sunset at the Trenton-Mahoning Valley game the following week. Unlike my previous game this one was mostly good. A Mahoning Valley error in the first lead to three runs which were all Trenton really needed. A great read by Thunder coach Jeff Manto allowed a runner to score from first base on a hit and run and give the Thunder an insurance run after Mahoning Valley had clawed a couple runs back in the top of the 6th.

It turned out that the Draft League mandates 7-inning games on Tuesdays (excluding home openers) before the Amateur Draft so this game ended in a quick two hours with a 4–2 6.5 inning Thunder victory. Trenton, being a wonderfully fan-centered place treats the 7-inning ticket stubs as a coupon for a free ticket to another game so that was an unexpected bonus.

Two Mahoning Valley coaches played in the majors. Homer Bush has a bunch of cards so I just went with a pair of nice photos and managed to get my first signed 1998 Fleer as well. Ron Mahay though, despite a 14-year career and over 500 games played, has just a solitary individual card and only two MLB cards in all. And they’re both ridiculously hard to track down since apparently no one collected or sells Topps Total.

I’m glad I found one but this kind of thing is possibly  my least favorite aspect of the modern card collecting industry. It’s been a lot of fun getting autographs at the draft league games because it reminds me how much baseball cards matter. The players in particular love to see their coaches’ cards and, correctly, treat them as tangible evidence of having made it to the big leagues.

Everyone who plays in the majors should have a card yet the number of guys who can play for years and never get a card is really frustrating. It took Mahay seven years to get a “rookie” card and that’s just wrong.

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I used my free ticket last week on a game against Williamsport. Another great night though the threatened rain (which never materialized) scared a bunch of fans off. Great clouds though.

Before talking about he game though I need to mention this photo. Taking a panoramic shot from my sea is clearly urning into a thing but this is the first time I’ve tried one with the game going on. Panoramas are interesting with action because I have to swing the lens slowly and that doesn’t always work with fast action. In this case it works amazingly well since I managed to capture both the pitcher’s follow-through when he released the ball and the hitter’s follow through after making contact. Definitely something worth trying again. I doubt I’ll get another shot this nice though.

This was a game where Manto’s aggressive baserunning ended up costing the team. No blunders just that Williamsport executed well on defense and getting multiple guys thrown out at 3rd base and home plate is usually going to hurt you. Is very nice to see that the defense has improved a ton after that disastrous game earlier this season though. Unfortunately the Thunder relief pitchers have problems finding the plate and turned a close 2–2 game into a 6–2 loss.

Jesse Litsch is the Williamsport manager and may be the only former pitcher who I’ve come across as the manager in the minors. He signed a pair before the game including my first 2010 Upper Deck.

I also got another pair from Shawn Chacon. A 2006 for myself and a custom for Marc Brubaker’s Astrograph project. Marc’s customs are always nice and since Chacon has no Astros cards he was especially excited to see this one and very much appreciated keeping the extra Marc had sent. I’m glad I not only helped him out in his project but that I got to relay a good story as well. This should be on it’s way back to Houston now if it hasn’t gotten there already.

Halfway through the season it’s been a good season for coach signatures (I think I’ve gotten 11 different coaches). Though it’s also making me notice some things about the coaching pipeline. I hadn’t paid much attention to it until I wrote about my sons’ 1991 projects but now in many ways it’s become something I can’t not see. It gets even worse when I put all the coaches I’ve gotten autographs from together.

This is a pretty white group. I’ve included two college coaches in here as well but as far as I’m concerned it’s all part of the same pipeline and demonstrates why Major League Baseball’s coaching and managing has such a diversity problem. To MiLB’s credit the coaching staffs do seem to be pretty diverse but the guys with MLB experience don’t reflect that and given the way MLB hires managers that’s a problem.

It’s also been interesting to me to see how many Draft League coaches have MLB experience but how few of the AA coaches do.  This was very different in 2019 when most AA teams that came to town had at last one former MLB  player on staff. This year it was just Hartford.

A Robin’s Nest

On May 6 a robin started building a nest right by our front door. I didn’t actively discourage her but I was in and out a lot that day running errands and picking up the kids from school (it was raining). She was undeterred and two days later everything was finished.

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She was a bit jumpy still and tended to fly away whenever anyone approached the door or came up the walk but by the 13th she was much more comfortable and I was able to get some photos of her sitting in her nest, presumably on her eggs.

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Things carried on like this for a while. On May 30 though things had visibly changed. Whenever mama robin was gone here were pointy beaks visible over the edge of the nest.

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I got some better photos the following day when the light had improved.

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By June 2 they’d grown significantly larger and I could tell that there were four hatchlings. Mama robin had been feeding them nonstop. Mostly worms. I could never catch her feeding them with my camera though.

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By June 5 I had no idea how all four still fit in the nest.

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By June 8 one had decided to leave the nest. I must’ve caught it right as it was making its decision to go.

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The following morning there were still three in the nest but by noon two more had flown away and there was a solitary robin left behind. Mama was still coming by with worms though.

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By June 10 though the last robin had left and the nest was vacant.

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All told that was 36 days from construction to desertion. Fun to watch. While I know intellectually what was going on it’s something else to see it every day. The kids liked watching too and are already wondering if we’ll get robins again next year.

Little League

After a two year hiatus we got back to playing Little League. I’ve missed it. Weird being in the kid pitch division but also great since it looks like baseball. We had a great team this year with about 8 kids who could throw, almost all of which turned up to every event early and ready to play. A super positive group which might spoil me moving forward.

My youngest went into the season a bit shy and scared of pitching and came out of it with more self confidence than I ever expected. Not only did he turn out to be one of the most accurate pitchers in the league (1.11 WHIP when the league average WHIP is probably over 5) but he was willing to participate in the home run derby in front of everyone. We’re incredibly proud of him.

I was no longer a head coach since tweaking mechanics and stuff like hat is way beyond my ken. Instead I signed out to help out in the dugout and as a result, had a lot more time to take photos. Especially when our team is in the field.

One of these days I’ll get a proper autofocus lens which but for now I’m still using manual glass and prefocusing on things like the mound and home plate. I can’t complain about the results though. It’s nice to be able to send these to the parents and it’s nice for my kids to be able to see them as well.

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Track and Field

I hesitate to say that things are back to normal but the new normal has at least opened up school sports to my eldest in a way he didn’t have last year. Even last fall, since vaccines weren’t yet available to all kids, the travel squad was super small and so we only had an opportunity to see a couple cross country races. This spring though I’ve had a chance to go to a bunch of track meets and take different photos of the kids. I’m not shooting for art or anything, these are just photos for the parents who I know. But it’s been a lot of fun to follow their progress and see how they all support each other.

And it was a good program for my son too. He’s not fast but he’s enjoying getting better and spending time with his friends. Track doesn’t cut anyone and encourages all kids who want to work hard to come out. And work hard he did. Lots of practice and it was wonderful to see his results as he chopped over 40 seconds off his 1600m time and over 15 seconds off his 800m time. Both of those were huge improvements that went far beyond what he thought he was capable of doing.

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Time Capsule

Way back when the pandemic started I decided to load some film and take photos of my kids remote schooling and other things as we were all suck at home together. I figured it would be a nice project to work on until things got better. I’ve been having problems for a while getting into the photography groove again and hoped this would help.

Yeah I know. Things never got better. Yes the kids made it back to school for  relatively normal year but I never got into a groove. Still haven’t really. I forgot about my roll in 2020 and only picked it up to kill it a couple months ago. Then I found out that the place where I used to develop film had shut down during the pandemic and had to find a new one.

Was a lot of fun to finally see my pictures though. I haven’t had a  proper time capsule like this in decades.

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I also discovered that I did take my camera out a couple times in summer 2020 and winter 2020/21 even though I’d completely forgotten doing so.

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And the last couple of shots killing the roll this year.

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